Protesters promise hunger strike

Downtown march draws attention to unfunded program

May 31, 2008|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,Sun Reporter

Promising a hunger strike until their demands are met, about 40 city high school students and young adults rallied at Baltimore's Inner Harbor yesterday evening to protest the City Council's rejection of $3 million in funding for programs that would pay youths to help peers in need.

The protesters gathered at the harbor's amphitheater, then marched peacefully a few blocks to the Legg Mason plaza, where they chanted slogans and listened to speeches. The group planned to spend the night at a nearby church and repeat the routine daily without ingesting anything but water and juice.

"We're trying to get $3 million to fund Peer to Peer so 1,000 young people can be employed next year in a knowledge-based economy," said Cherdaya Allen, an 11th-grader at Western High School who tutors high school and college students in math.

Peer to Peer is a fledgling organization that would serve as an umbrella group for numerous youth programs. If funded, the organization would allocate money to member groups that, in turn, would pay students to help others.

"We're hungry for education, ready to be effective in society, making money to help others," said Daimen Poole, a college student with Hip Hop Congress, which uses rap music to promote activism related to HIV, teen pregnancy and other issues.

On Wednesday, a City Council committee rejected a proposal to use interest from the city's "rainy day fund" to fund Peer to Peer. Mayor Sheila Dixon has staunchly opposed the proposal, arguing that she has placed more than $14.5 million in the budget for about a dozen youth programs. More funding should be a decision for the school system, she said.

jonathan.bor@baltsun.com

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